As an air-traffic controller, Nick Falzone is among the best - when he's on shift, planes invariably land and take off on time. He's popular with his colleagues, who have nicknamed him the "No-Fly Zone", and shares a loving relationship with his wife Connie. In short, he has the perfect life - until the day one of his fellow ATCs gives in to the stress of the job and is replaced by Russell Bell, a controller with a reputation almost equal to Falzone's; this, according to ATC legend, is the guy who "stood under a 747 and let it blow right over his head so that he could find out what turbulence really meant".
The competition between the two men, who dislike each other on sight, soon becomes intense - high-speed car races, hundred-dollar bets on basketball games, and high-risk maneuvers with the planes they control on the job. Before long, Nick's slept with Russell's attractive - though alcoholic - wife, and Russell's responded by doing the same with Connie. As the pressure on his marriage, his job and his reputation slowly causes Nick to self-destruct, he begins to re-evaluate his life, ultimately turning to Russell for help on how to regain his equilibrium - and his wife.
As a comedy, "Pushing Tin" is a trifle long; as human drama, it's a little short. But director Mike Newell's dark comedy about air traffic controllers, their high-stress jobs, and the things men do to win a contest is certainly enjoyable, with some very funny moments, and great performances by John Cusack as Nick Falzone, Billy Bob Thornton as Russell Bell, Cate Blanchette as Connie Falzone and Angelina Jolie as Mary Bell. If you're in the mood for a few laughs this weekend, "Pushing Tin" is the movie to watch!This article was first published on 12 Apr 2000.